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Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

ALEXANDER  VON  HUMBOLDT.                  95
The special explanation of the new discoveries in.
descriptive botany Huinboldt left to his fellow-
labourers, as lie had at the same time to devote his
energies to other fields of natural science. Thus Bon-
pland alone wrote two works3 namely, " Planter Equi-
mind with the mysterious life  of plants, and their relation to the
earth.    The surface of plants which is spread over the -world has had
its HiSTOBYj its gradual distribution over the sterile earth, and its
great  epoclis.    If a volcano from the bottom of the  sea suddenly
divides the surging" tide and forces a slaggy rock to the light of day,
or if the coral insects gradually raise their edifice,   after thousand
generations, to the level of the sea, everywhere on the naked rock,
sis soon as it comes in contact with the air., the organic powers are
ready to vivify the dead stone.    The first vegetation on the stone
begins with a coloured spot, gradually darkening and appearing- to
be streaked with velvet,  an organic structure rises layerwise over
the stone, and, as th© human race must pass through, certain grades
of moral culture, so is the gradual distribution of plants dependant
on certain physical laws.    "Where high forest trees now raise their
verdant tops, tender lichen once crept over the soilless rock—mosses,
grasses,, weeds, and bushes,, nil up the unmeasured periods of gradual
development between then and now,    "What the lichens and mosses
effect in the north,, the pontulace,  the gomphrenes, and other low
shore plants serve to effect in the tropics.    This developemerit and
advancing renovation varies according to the diversity of the climate.
Periodically nature becomes dormant in the cold zones., for fluidity
is the condition of life; only such plants can develope themselves
h®re as arc capable of supporting1 a temporary interruption of their
vital functions, and a periodical deprivation of heat; but the nearer
to the tropics the more varied are their nature, their graceful forms
and colours.    But in this increase from the poles to the equator each
different climate 1ms its peculiar beauties, excepting- of course the
sterility of certain large ti'ticts of land in conseqtience of former floods
or volcanic revolutions.    The tropics, Tfor example, have variety and
size of form, the north enjoys the prospect of meadows and of the
periodic awaking of nature—every zone has its peculiar character,
its natural physiognomy.    The descriptions of such landscapes need
not only afford a pure delight to the senses, but Humboldt showed
how the knowledge of the natural character of different regions of
the world m intimately allied with the history of the human race and
its civilization^ how the tendency of the national character, 110W a
cheerful or  a depressed humour   chiefly   depends  on climatic in-*
fluences.    The wonderful number of different species of plants, of
which 56,000 have already been discovered on the earth, Humboldt
divided into only a few well-defined classes, which foraa the basis of
all.    He did not clasaiiy them,   aa the Kyatematical botanist does,
according1 to the minute parts of th© buds and fruits,  but according'
to the entire impression which individualises a district, and by this
meant* h© established sixteen classes of plants which especially deter-
mine  the physiognomy of nature.     More "will probably b© found